COREY A. STEWART, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia, is mortified — simply aghast — that anyone could imagine he shares the racist, white-supremacist views of a lengthy and growing list of his political allies, backers and advisers. So what if he hailed a self-avowed “pro-white” provocateur as his “personal hero”? That was before the man “went nuts,” protests Mr. Stewart. Who cares if the organizer of last summer’s violent neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville had endorsed Mr. Stewart after they met few months earlier? “I didn’t know he stood for all those horrible things,” objects the blameless candidate.
Now comes news that a Stewart campaign consultant, who has been paid tens of thousands of dollars so far this year, tweeted “DON’T OPEN A BUSINESS IN A BLACK NEIGHBORHOOD!” after protests erupted in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., following the deaths of young, unarmed African American men . The consultant, Rick Shaftan, shares with Mr. Stewart a fondness for Confederate statues and symbols. Last year, he posted a picture of a Confederate flag with the caption “If The South Would Have Won, We Would Have Had It Made.”
Mr. Stewart hasn’t repudiated those views or Mr. Shaftan, who remains an adviser to his campaign for the Senate. Instead, he falls back on the usual defense deployed by race-card-playing politicians, insisting he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. Or, as he put it in a TV appearance several weeks ago, he has “always condemned . . . any of these white supremacists or bigots or anything like that.” (PolitiFact rated that statement “Mostly False,” noting that he has distanced himself from white-supremacist supporters “only in the face of mounting public pressure . . . and even then it took him some time.”)
Mr. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors since 2006, is a master of nod-and-wink politics — the incendiary remark swiftly patched up by insider chitchat with mainstream political reporters. He likes to say that he was Trump before Trump was Trump. By that, Mr. Stewart means that he made his mark in local politics by vilifying undocumented immigrants in Prince William, where he pushed through a measure allowing police to check the immigration status of anyone they pleased, an invitation to racial profiling. (It was later amended so that people actually had to be arrested first before officers could demand their papers.)
Last summer, Mr. Stewart was one of the few prominent Virginia politicians to leap to the defense of white nationalists who provoked violence in Charlottesville, blaming counterprotesters for “half the violence.” He made the preservation of Confederate statues the centerpiece of his unsuccessful candidacy last year for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. More recently, he falsely asserted that slavery was not the principal cause of the Civil War. (It was, as most prominent historians agree.)
In the race for Senate, against incumbent Democrat Tim Kaine, Mr. Stewart vowed to “run a very vicious and ruthless campaign.” With the help of advisers such as Mr. Shaftan, he’s likely to fulfill that uplifting pledge.